Roosters Fantasy Guide: we’re within “the cap” for a change; plus must-haves and avoids in 2016

When the blog first kicked off back in 2013, the chaps at NRL Dream Team (now Fantasy) seemingly bought into the standard B.S. that the Roosters were over the cap. The bastards.

Seriously, I tried to make an all-Chook squad in 2013 and the damn thing wouldn’t fit everyone in despite having unknown and relatively untested commodities at the time, such as Sam Moa, and never-high scorers such as Frank-Paul Nu’uasala and Michael Oldfield:

Roosters DreamTeam

Even in Fantasy we get accused. This is the team from prior to round 1, 2013.

We let Tom Symonds go later on in the pre-season, which means Moa (unable to fit on the bench here) would take that cap spot, leaving one available… and we couldn’t even squeeze untried rookie Kane Evans in.

This year? We’ve lost Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Michael Jennings and a host of others, and the good people at Fantasy have wised up… kind of. Amazingly, we would sit at absolute Salary Cap capacity if Joseph Manu were included as one of the backs (he isn’t yet available for selection); he’d come in at the rookie cost of $130,000 and the cap is set at $6.8 million:


Chuck Joey Manu in that free spot and we are at absolute capacity.

This is despite every Roosters fan wondering what the hell we spent all that freed-up money on… did it all go to Dale Copley? Ian Henderson?

Hilariously, the latter has somehow been valued at $223,000. How that figure was deduced only the Fantasy Gods know.

Regardless, it shows just how much our depth is reliant on rookies: We have Mitch Frei, Vinnie Leuluai, Jayden Nikorima, Latrell Mitchell and 19-game veteran Jackson Hastings set to shoulder a significant load this year until Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner return. And we don’t know when that will be just yet for either of the triumvirate.

With that reliance, however, there’s some great value to be had in cash cows, if that wasn’t already friggin’ obvious. There’s also some you should avoid for now and into the year, based on how the team is structured and predicted to play. So let’s go through the highlights and expected Fantasy lowlights.

For those who are unaware, the Fantasy version run by the NRL differs in points scope to Supercoach; less value is placed on tries (17 points in SC and eight in Fantasy) and kicking metres count (a point for every 20 metres booted) among other scoring differences. 

Must haves

Jackson Hastings.

If you don’t have him in your team now, you’re doing it wrong. He’s going to be relied on for the general play kicking while Pearce is out, and arguably when Pearce returns, pending his comfort and success in the role. He won’t run it as much as Maloney did, and he’s not a tackle-buster, but the kicking metres alone combined with his goal-kicking prowess and defensive duties has him slated to be THE cash cow of 2016.

Aidan Guerra.

While Cordner is out, Guerra stands to receive more ball and 80 minutes of action as he did against St Helens. He’s a tackle buster, a try-scorer and handy in defence, and looks to have developed a fledgling combination of sorts on the right edge with the neophyte Nikorima, who will look to go to him often in a flat-line attack.

He’s also due for a contract extension at the end of this year and will be keen to impress with a career performance. He’s the first forward I picked in Fantasy.

Latrell Mitchell.

He’s been named on the wing for round one, yet his days in that position, many believe, are numbered as he’s born for the Roosters’ fullback spot. One only has to look at his performances in the Nines and the WCS to appreciate what he will bring to the fantasy game, regardless of position. Here’s the video of his “coming out” party where he lays bare all his talent and both arse cheeks to the world:

He’s young but already capable of tackle busts all day, easy metres and the occasional line break. He’s a handy play-maker too and should get a bunch of try assists if he does indeed shift to the back.

Marked at the cheapest possible price, what are you waiting for?

Definite maybes

Mitchell Aubusson.

Slated to start from the forwards, his value in the pack always makes him seem a worthy candidate to pick: his tackles go through the roof and he rarely misses, he’s a rare line-breaking forward specialist and according to my value-added run rate, which values extra impact play per-run ([(Line breaks+tackle busts+offloads)-(errors)]/Total Runs), Aubo ranked first in the club after 12 games in 2014 when 26 Rounds shut up shop the first time:


However… he gets yanked like John Holmes between the forwards, centres and the bench, and depending on the first match performance of backup hooker Ian Henderson could find himself back in the back-up role at hooker where he’d play between 15 and 30 minutes. And when Boyd comes back, he definitely shifts back to the bench or out to the centres.

There’s an oft-quoted fantasy rule to never pick Aubusson. It’s a rule I am breaking for round 1 — his dual position status means you can start him in the centres — and I have full knowledge that it’s a trade I’m bound to make soon, perhaps by next week.

Jayden Nikorima.

He’s going to be a cash cow… but how much will his price actually increase? Consider that he’s not going to be a kicker of the ball, he’s diminutive and likely to be targeted in defence… and when Pearce comes back, he’ll either slide back to the bench and get Ian Henderson’s backup hooking minutes, or back to 20s where he’s still eligible with Aubo instead taking the hooking role off the bench.

So prepare for the fact the cash cow aspect may have roughly six-or-so weeks to run before you ship him out… and is one of those spots (he’s a dual position hooker or half) better used on a longer-term cash cow such as Ashley Taylor (slated to start for the Titans after Kane Elgey’s season-ending injury) or a higher-priced, positionally secure player in two typically-valuable scoring spots?

Personally, I have him as backup hooker in my head-to-head league, but it’s not a long-term investment. And I may regret not having a higher-scoring hooker on my bench, and in addition guaranteeing another trade down the line.

Blake Ferguson.

Everyone will be seduced by the tackle-buster getting heavy minutes at fullback, sure. He should in theory get some easy metres and has space to roam. But in the WCS he looked unsure of himself positionally, was prone to error (a pass over the sideline and the spilled bomb that led to the try) and he may need more time to acclimate to the role than his value is worth. He also seems a touch injury-prone and may be just keeping the fullback position warm before abdicating to Latrell.

The value is good, sure, and I had him initially in my first team. But the WCS performance made me withdraw him from my Round 1 team. If he performs well? Great, you can trade out a cash cow or a high-priced flop, and get him still at decent value from a $308K base.

Avoid for round 1, and why you should possibly avoid for longer

Boyd Cordner.

For obvious reasons, really — for now at least. He can score OK when he’s on, but he’s not a spectacular must have when he IS healthy… and that’s rare. He has a recurring case of the injury bug and has yet to play a whole season. There’s better value almost everywhere you look.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

Same reasons, but also he’ll start the season slow when he does return, possibly off the bench and definitely not with major minutes planned for him upon his return. It was a pretty big knee injury, so temper expectations for when he returns.

Mitchell Pearce.

When Maloney left he seemed the safe bet to take care of all the general kicking duties, thus ensuring a big scoreline — he was of course the primary option last year but occasionally Jimmy would monopolise the kicking based on match-ups.

But after Australia Day, and with Jacko set to stamp some authority on the team in the lead-up to whenever Mitch returns, there’s a good chance he faces a split again.

The caveat is that, with Hastings mre an old-school, organising genral rather than a next-gen dynamic running halfback like Shaun Johnson, Mitch may be relied upon to handle a bit more running — and when he runs he’s pretty good, obviously. Looking at the VARR above, he ranked just behind Aubo and in just 4.25 runs a game in 12 games in 2014 he was averaging 8.65 metres a run, 1.5 tackle busts and 0.67 offloads — fourth at the club behind Sonny Bill Williams, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and SKD.

So the value could be there — though you’ll get plenty of time to decide whether you want to trade him in or not when he returns. You’ll have a good scope by then of just how much of a stamp his new halves partner will make.

But he’s obviously not worth drafting into your round 1 squad with a punishment still to be handed down.




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